Understanding before Moving 162: Chess history in a nutshell (43)

by ChessBase
1/28/2024 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books on chess training and strategy. In the 162nd episode of his ChessBase show "Understanding before moving" Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell" and takes a look at the legacy of Vassily Smyslov, the seventh World Champion in the history of chess. | Photo: Pascal Simon

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Vassily Smyslov (1)

In a previous episode of this series on chess history we spoke about the Russian Mikhail Botvinnik (1911 - 1995) who, after winning the World Champion title, lost it three times to a another Soviet player.

After Botvinnik had struggled to retain his title against Bronstein, he faced a similar situation two years later against Vassily Smyslov (born 1921). Once again the match ended in a draw. But in 1957 Smyslov achieved the greatest success of his life: He won his second World Championship match against Botvinnik to become the seventh World Champion in the history of chess.

However, Botvinnik was entitled to a rematch within a year, and in this third match between the two, Smyslov lost his title again. It was said that he had taken this third match too lightly.

Nevertheless, Smyslov, known as perhaps the most likeable world champion of all time, had made his mark. The Muscovite was a man of many talents who had devoted himself to more than just chess. It is known that he was a more than respectable opera singer. This led the organising committee of the Interpolis Chess Tournament to make a recording of his singing when he participated in the tournament in Tilburg.

His style of play is based on a strategic foundation, but seasoned with the most unexpected and beautiful tactical turns. His clear and logical style makes his games easy to understand. If you replay Smyslov's games, you might think that chess is very easy, and the following game is a nice illustration of his creativity.

In the position below, Smyslov was Black and played 20...Rb7!, which Botvinnik answered with 21.Rb1?, which was a serious mistake? Can you work out how Smyslov now gained a decisive advantage?

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